These herbal remedies allegedly work because they contain complex organic chemicals.[Kumar 2012] Herbal medicines should never be consumed as food, for their nutrient content.
Nevertheless, herbal medicines are NOT the first thing that health enthusiasts should turn to for healing. Rather, they should be considered their very last option. In other words, herbal medicine is what an ailing person turns to, only when food or special diets, natural juicing, physical exercise, and supplementation with nutritional supplements has been ineffective.
In natural health, let food be thy medicine.
What plants are we exactly talking about in herbal medicine? The common names being thrown around on the Internet are notoriously inaccurate. Once you start dabbling in herbal remedies, you have to go by their Latin nomenclature in order to be precise in your search for a cure. Ginseng, for example, comes in two different varieties, Oriental (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolium). Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticocus) is not even a true ginseng plant at all, but is an entirely different species.
Herbal medicines are notoriously imprecise and confusing remedies, at best. While water-soluble forms of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in pill form make taking an orthomolecular home remedy easy; it is not nearly as simple with herbal preparations.
Once the Latin name of a plant rumored to be effective has been identified, the next area of confusion in herbal medicine comes from the fact that the part of the plant that herbal preparations are prepared from can make a big difference. In other words, which part of the herb does the herbal remedy call for: roots, leaves, bark, stems, or the whole plant?
Beyond the part of plant used in herbal preparation, Herbal medicine comes in many different forms:
- acetums (vinegar extract).
- capsules (powdered herb preparation).
- decoctions (water extract),
- electuaries (powdered herb mixed with honey),
- elixirors (honey & alcohol preparation),
- infusions (water extract),
- salves (topical preparation),
- syrups (honey & water preparation),
- teas (water extract),
- tinctures (alcohol extract),
Ergo, which form are you supposed to be using for your herbal cure?
A major concern is that the strength of these herbal preparations varies widely, batch by batch.
"Herbal medicine: an unknown dose of an ill-defined drug, of unknown effectiveness and unknown safety."[Colquhoun 2008]
"Herbs contain complicated mixtures of organic chemicals, the levels of which may vary substantially depending upon many factors related to the growth, production and processing of each specific herbal product."[Wolsko 2005]
In order to make the strength of herbal medicines more consistent, some commercial herbal preparations have been standardized to a single active ingredient. Somebody for unknown reasons has guessed at what the single active ingredient should be for each herb. In other words, standardized herbal preparations have been adulterated with the so-called single active ingredient. Perhaps, these herbal preparations have been standardized to the wrong thing for the specific cure that you are interested in?
"Although many manufacturers provide products with consistent levels of active ingredients through a process known as chemical standardization, this technique has uncertain effects on the safety and efficacy of the final product."[Newmaster 2013]
In worst case scenarios, herbal medicines have been adulterated with toxic prescription medications, neither legal nor listed on the product label, apparently because they mimic the alleged effect of herbs that even the small herbalism business itself has no confidence in.
The final deathblow to the use of herbal medication comes from the fact that most commercially purchased herbal preparations are of extremely poor quality. How can any body take the use of herbs seriously, when you have absolutely no assurance that what you just bought is actually what it is claimed to be? Abuse in the small herbalism business is widespread: Herbal Products, Buyer Beware!
In conclusion: It is the position of the Natural Health Perspective that herbal preparations should be the last therapeutic option to consider, when health enthusiasts try to heal themselves.